Children Must Learn, The
"This film is an authentic record of real people, living their usual lives. It documents one of several experiments carried on by various state universities -- experiments sponsored by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Inc. -- to discover what schools can do to raise the level of living in the communities they serve."
Slow moving and sad film which makes the case for education which will improve people's lives directly. Makes the case that people shown in the film need to be instructed in how to farm correctly and what to plant so that they may eat better.
Story of mountain people who have farms which are not bountiful. Much mournful music. Shows life in a poor family living in a small wooden house. Wall covered with newspapers to keep out drafts. The pregnant mother prepares corn pone cooked in pork grease and pieces of pork for breakfast. Narrator explains that these children don't get enough and the right things to eat.
The house has signs over the doorways like "We are Thankful". Voiceover about the irrelevance of school books to the lives of these poor farm children. "The sons of the sons of the men who clear it [the land] still plant the corn from the same old seeds.. . their lives set in old patterns, in worn-out grooves, new ideas are not easy to come by when learning passes from mouth to mouth, from father to son."
"Corn and pork, corn pone and pork sausage and pork gravy. The hog slaughtered in the fall must last the winter. The hog provides the meat for the sausage and the grease for the gravy. Often there isn't enough to eat, never the right things to eat. No green vegetables and milk; no calcium for teeth and bones; no vitamins to prevent rickets, scurvy. Weak bones from poor food; poor food from poor land. Kids growing up to the same years of hunger; babies being born without a chance of strong bodies. These are good people, proud people. Sons and daughters of pioneers, cousins of the people who built America."
"They use the same books that all the other children in the state use, the same books as the children use in mining towns, in mill towns, and in great industrial centers. Some of them are good books. But they talk about another kind of world. The books do not tell of how to rotate crops and what makes balanced farming. They do not name the way lessons can be applied to the mountain people."
"Next year, the children will study materials prepared in their own communities to teach them facts about soil and food along with reading and writing. . . .The children must learn a new way. The land is tired of corn, but small plots of it could be enriched for raising vegetables. Children must learn to raise goats for milk. They must learn to reforest the hills. It's too late now for the old ones. The children must learn."
Snowy scenes; good sequence man chopping wood; gravestone "Charley Lynch"; graveyard covered by snow; man bringing wood into house and stoking stove; Children sleeping under quilts; sweeping; feeding chickens; Old people sitting in rockers on porches; children crying; children being dressed; Children being taught in one room schoolhouse. They warm their feet in the fire. Some are shabbily dressed.
Danger Lurks safety
Subject: My sister and her family
Subject: My Family
Subject: MIxed messages?
It is interesting to note that even though the people in the home were shown to be very needy by "modern" standard, they still were thankful and even had signs up in their home stating the fact.
The fact that the education needed to be more geared to those who were trying to learn is important.
As far as the attitudeof the film being "condecending" toward the people it displays, it seemed to show a need for helping the people to be more self sufficient instead of the other way around.
We all know that there are just as many happy people living in shacks as there are people living in mansions. And, which environment produces children that grow up to be responsible and caring adults? My guess would be the shack.
Subject: outsider's point of view
I agree, it is shot with little of the perspective or input of the local populace, but hardly demeaning or out of ordinary for that time period. I agree with review no. one, the rote teaching method was outdated and the film was trying to promote a new approach I'm sure faulty to the degree that it did not include local involvement. I do wonder if the scenes in the home were actually shot in a studio, though.
Subject: "Children Must Learn" effective for 1940
Subject: From the outsider's point of view...
So if you haven't the newest stove and a pile of cash or stocks you're poor.
This mentality (not started, but clearly reflected in this film) started putting preasure on the people to show of with status symbols to proove they're not poor.
Also it would be incomprehancable for the people in the city to understand how these poor (without a great amount of cash) people could aford things like daily milk. The people in the city are simply used to buying milk at a certain expense. They wouldn't understand that on a family farm you wouldn't have to buy milk, eggs, meat... because you'd have it. You'd in fact be the one who's selling and making a profit out of it, not spending money to have it.
And I still don't know why, but poverty also got measured by the amount of phisical labour (especially hard labour on the land or with animals) a person has to do. The more you work (phisically) - the poorer you are. It's just a wrong way of thinking, but that's how people thought and that's what created the society we know today: people showing off, to prove they're not poor, people thinking that if you have to work hard you're poor, and people not understanding an independant lifestyle (where you can actually provide for yourself and not buy everything from a store).
Subject: typical anti-rural attitude
I'm currently working on a documentary on this very subject. I've been doing research on this for a long time. This is obviously an attempt to put down rural education and establish centralized control of schools removing the control of local schools from local school boards and placing control in the hands of "professional educators".
This film was a gold mine for me and my project. It's the perfect example of the "if it's small it must be bad" attitude. Rural families thrived around their local schools which they used for the center of their culture. They were not backwards people and they weren't all that poor either. Compared to commercial centers they might have been poor but the idea that they didn't eat well is just ridiculous. Every family had a milk cow yet this film implies that they suffered from a lack of milk.
Not only am I working on this project but I grew up in a family much like this one. I worked on the family farm where we grew almost everything we ate. And we ate 100 times better than people eat now. My grandmother had a college degree in horticulture. Everyone we knew had a great knowledge of agriculture. In fact it was modern agriculture that really ended that life because mechanized farms made it unprofitable to raise food with the old style of manual labor on a family farm. Yes these people moved to cities to get jobs to a large extent. But they lived a full existence in their rural culture.
Subject: Good view of 30's-40's paternalism
Subject: Not really poor
Compared with families in rural Mexico, Russia, or India even today, this Appalachian family lived very well. One reviewer suggested communist influences in this film, which would explain the distortion of reality here. Convince the working classes that they are poor, even if they are not, and they might sign up for The Revolution.
The film by itself would only deserve one star, but I'm giving it four as a study in propaganda and distortion.
One other thing. The film advocates teaching the children different farming methods to rise above their supposed poverty. However, these children would have reached maturity around 1950, and in the post-war economy, the family farm was rapidly becoming economically untenable. These children almost certainly grew up and moved to town to find jobs. The modern farming methods pushed by this film would have been worthless to them. The education in basic literacy and mathematical competency dismissed by the film was what they needed after all.
Subject: not true
My family has always lived in the area and I love it. Our land is not "worn out" now in 2005 and certainly was not then. My mother grew up here during the depression and she told me they did not know they would have been considered poor by outsiders. They always had plenty to eat,a warm house, nice clothing that my grandmother made for them.My grandfather was a farmer and they grew everything they needed except coffee. I have some of his books on farming so he did not need the goverment to teach him proper farming principles. Yes it was a rural way of life but not the propaganda spread in this film.Crops still consist of tobacco, corn, various grains and of course vegtables. She and her sisters grew up to be teachers and nurses.
Contrast the above to how folks who lived in cities fared during the 30's.
This stuff is so staged it's outrageous.
Subject: A. P. Sloan Foundation
Subject: Dear heavens, this is interesting, but condescending
Subject: Absolutely fascinating...
This is an absolute gem here. It's ostensibly promoting a new educational program for the appalachian regions of Kentucky circa 1940, but it's far more than that. You get beautifully shot montages of life in the area, selective and effective narration, and there's even an acoustic bluegrass-esque soundtrack that's surprisingly well done for this time period. However, for all that beauty, it's very much a sad presentation of the life they struggled to lead. The only lightness in the entire film comes in the dressing of the small boy which I found fairly amusing. My favorite sequence runs from about 2:10 to 3:00, with excellent direction and music. I must confess I don't see any communist overtones in this film. Even though the production type is there, that message isn't, in my opinion.
Easily a must-see film.
Subject: soviet influence
Subject: Oh, Willie, What Do You Want for Your Breakfast?
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: N/A. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.
Subject: Oh Cabbage, where art thou?
Bonus points: Disquieting shots of the catalogs and pamplets which could be helping them being used as wallpaper; also, the slogans/commandments written over every doorway and window, at least half of which are "Smile."
Subject: Mmmhmm mmhmmmm mmmhmmm.....
Of particular interest is the music, which is sort of acapella bluegrass, with the odd guitar thrown in at occasional points. It can either be grating or fascinating (or both) to listen to.
A MUST see on this site, I was caught totally off guard.